25 Emergency Items You Should Keep in Your Car

The contents of a car emergency kit.
iamnoonmai/Shutterstock

For drivers, emergencies and inconveniences are inevitable. If you want to be prepared for flat tires, breakdowns, or even a messy day at the beach, keep these 25 items in your vehicle, and you’ll be ready for anything.

Before we get too deep into the world of jumper cables and air compressors, we should mention that roadside assistance programs can make common emergencies (especially blowouts, lockouts, or towing) much easier to handle. AAA is a great option, but you might be able to save some money if you go with one of Nationwide, ProgressiveGEICO, or State Farm’s programs. You might already have roadside assistance through your auto insurance or car warranty, as well, so it’s worth checking.

The Essentials

A jack supporting a car next to the back tire and a spare tire leaning against the bumper.
Viacheslav Nikolaenko/Shutterstock

Some emergency equipment, like spare tires and jumper cables, are absolutely essential for safety. You probably have a lot of these in your car already, but if not, we suggest you stock up:

  • Spare tire: If you don’t already carry one of these in your vehicle, you might want to track one down now. Most websites make it easy to look up which tires will fit your make and model.
  • Jack: Tires won’t install themselves. There’s a good chance you already have a jack in the trunk, but if not, now’s the time to buy one.
  • Tire repair kit and compressor: This can be an absolute lifesaver. We suggest the Slime kit because it’s cheap and comes with a reliable air compressor.
  • First aid kit: Look for one that comes in a plastic caddy, or you can always throw together your own in a container or ziplock bag.
  • Jumper cables or a portable jump starter: Ah, the timeless accessory everyone should have. If you already have these in your car, make sure they’re still working jumper. If you have the portable kind, check periodically to make sure it’s charged.
  • Tire pressure gauge: These aren’t as essential as they used to be—especially if you own a tire compressor—but they’re cheap and handy in a pinch.
  • Snowbrush and ice scraper: If you live or vacation in colder climates, these are essential. It’s unsafe (and illegal) to drive with ice or snow on your windshield or roof.
  • Seat belt cutters and glass breakers: These might seem a bit extreme until you’re in a situation where you really need them.
  • LED road flares or roadside triangles: If you ever break down or get in an accident in the middle of a road, you’ll be glad to have these. They’re incredibly bright at night and will direct traffic away from your car like a set of traffic cones.

Now that we’ve covered the essentials, let’s move on to the extras. These little emergency items can help you endure a rainy day or a backseat full of upset kids.

The Little Things

A French Bull Dog sitting on a blanket in a car's hatchback.
Aleksandra Baranoff/Shutterstock

Some emergencies are smaller than others, but even the small ones can be stressful. If you want to be prepared even for the little things, keep these handy items in your vehicle:

  • Stuff for the kids: If you’re a parent, you might want to keep things like diapers, clothing, blankets, stuffed animals, and kids’ sunglasses in the car in case you get stuck waiting for assistance.
  • Flashlights: Sure, your phone has a built-in flashlight, but it’s not ideal for emergencies. A cheap LED flashlight will shine much brighter than your phone, and it should easily fit in the glove box.
  • Gloves: If you live in a colder climate and your car dies, you won’t have heat. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a spare pair of gloves in the car—maybe in the glove box? That’s what it was designed for, after all.
  • Towels: Whether you’re hitting the beach or clawing your way through some snow, a cheap set of car towels can make the unexpected easier. They’re also great for keeping your kids’ or pets’ messes off your interior.
  • Duct tape: You already know duct tape fixes everything, right? So, why don’t you have a roll in your car?
  • Ponchos: A few of these can really come in handy if you get caught in rough weather. They’re especially useful if you attend a lot of outdoor events or work outside.
  • Pocketknife: If you don’t like to carry one on you, keeping a cheap one in the glove box is a good idea.

The products we’ve covered so far should be enough for most emergencies. However, you can never be too prepared.

Go the Extra Mile

A man's hand on a steering wheel.
Anze Mulec/Shutterstock

You never know when you’ll need to cart a 100-pound box out of a building or free your car from quicksand. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for these scenarios, right?

Here are some handy products for people who want to be prepared for absolutely anything:

  • Replacement wiper blades: Even the best set of wiper blades only last for about six months. If you’d rather not drive blind, keep a spare set in your trunk.
  • A folding dolly: Because it folds, this won’t take up too much space in your car. It’ll come in handy more often than you might expect—especially if you do a lot of handiwork or help people move.
  • Bungee cords: These will secure anything in your vehicle from grocery bags to mattresses.
  • Kitty litter: Why? Because it soaks up oil or paint spills, and you can also use it to create traction if your car gets stuck in mud or snow.
  • Basic tool kit: This is nice to have to fix minor car issues (if you know how). But also, you never know when you might need a screwdriver or a pair of shears.
  • Hand warmers: Because who wants frozen fingers? If you live in a cold area, a few hand warmers can make any emergency stop much more tolerable.

Again, these last few items aren’t essential, but they’re good to have on hand. We definitely suggest you buy the spare tire before the kitty litter—unless your cat regularly takes off in your car.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is a writer for Review Geek and its sister site, How-To Geek. Like a jack-of-all-trades, he handles the writing and image editing for a mess of tech news articles, daily deals, product reviews, and complicated explainers. Read Full Bio »

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